Meena Bose: The West Point Civilian Who Teaches Soldiers History

Anthony Ramirez, in the NYT (Oct. 13, 2004):

PRESIDENT KENNEDY is slightly out of focus on the classroom's video screen. The female reporter in the flowered hat asks the president her usual question about what he has done lately for "equal rights for women." It is a televised news conference from the early 1960's.

"Well," the president says, grinning down at his lectern. "I'm, uh, sure we haven't done enough." The White House press corps, nearly all male, erupts in laughter. Kennedy continues, saying he supports equal pay for equal work, and then thanks the reporter for the question.

Meena Bose, a social sciences professor at the United States Military Academy here, stopped the videotape. She is a petite woman in a pageboy haircut who looks barely out of her teens. "Does Kennedy address the question in detail?" Ms. Bose, 34, asked the cadets in her class, called "The American Presidency."

A male cadet said, "No, ma'am," as other cadets, including two women, mumbled their assent. Ms. Bose then asked, "Could he have gotten away with that today?" Other cadets smiled. "No, ma'am," they murmured.

Tomorrow, when the cadets in Room 216 in Lincoln Hall discuss the final debate between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, they will be critiquing either their current or future boss, the one they will swear an oath to as Army officers.

"The president is the commander in chief," Ms. Bose said after class. "He will be making decisions, and the students in this room will be executing them."

A Princeton-educated scholar and former professor at Hofstra University, Ms. Bose is giving the cadets a demanding and rigorously nonpartisan education. (Asked who her own favorite president was, Ms. Bose replied, "Like a good academic, I parry those questions.")

Her expertise and evenhandedness have made her an increasingly sought-after television pundit, most recently for "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.'' Ms. Bose is one of the few female scholars - Doris Kearns Goodwin and Kathleen Hall Jamieson are two others - asked to provide historical context for American politics.

But Ms. Bose, whose heritage is Bengali Indian, touts neither a feminist nor immigrant American viewpoint.

Last month, Margaret Warner of "Newshour'' asked her about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, an Austrian immigrant. The Republican Party, Ms. Warner said, "hasn't been the party of the immigrant before, has it?"

"Well, no," Ms. Bose parried, "but the Republican Party, of course, is the party of Lincoln, and the party that originally opposed slavery. And I think what Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to do is recast the Republican Party as the so-called big tent."...

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